Advertising watchdog dismisses complaints over Gok’s “offensive” Target bra ad

Complaints over a Target ad featuring celebrity fashion consultant and television presenter Gok Wan have been dismissed by the Advertising Standards Board.

Target received a storm of criticism last year when Wan, host of How to Look Good Naked, referred to women’s breasts as “bangers” in a commercial for women’s underwear.

More recently the advertising watchdog received a number of complaints regarding a new commercial featuring Wan, this time promoting Target’s “intimates” collection. In the ad, Wan calls breasts “assets” and says buying lingerie doesn’t need to break the bank.

In a sample complaint published in the board’s case report, one person argues it is offensive to discuss a woman’s breasts – or any other part of their body – as an asset.

“I was watching a program with my 14- and 12-year-old daughters who had never, and should not have ever, heard breasts described as assets,” the complaint reads. “A disgraceful advertisement.”

In its defence, Target said the ad encouraged women to dress in correctly-sized underwear and feel good about themselves.

“We respectfully disagree with the complaints,” Target’s statement to the advertising watchdog reads. “We consider the advertisement to be appropriate and in line with Target’s brand values.”

The department store chain also hit back at complaints which focused on Wan’s sexuality.

“Gok Wan was chosen as a brand ambassador for Target because of his personality and

reputation, not his sexuality,” the company’s statement read. “He has a great capacity for making other people feel good about themselves too … Target makes no apology for using a gay man in its advertising and we do not believe that this should be grounds for upholding a complaint.”

Michelle Gamble, chief executive of Marketing Angels, told SmartCompany it is good to see common sense prevailing in the Advertising Board’s decision.

“What Gok did was refer to things already in our vernacular,” she said. “He didn’t use words that are swear words or derogatory.”

Gamble said businesses should avoid words that are seen as demeaning in advertising, however in this instance Target was using slang words that many women themselves use.

“I think Gok’s campaign was fantastic for Target,” she said. “He is a very approachable character that people can relate to.”

Gamble says SMEs have an advantage over large companies like Target when it comes to advertising, because they can test marketing ideas more easily.

“I think SMEs often are a lot closer to their customers,” she said. “So if you are looking at something that is a bit cheeky, perhaps have a small group of test customers you could float the idea with before putting it out into the market.”

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